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Friday, November 21, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I have always been interested in far places. When I was 10 or something, an Afghan family moved to our appartment house. The father, Mahmood Shaw, worked for Ariana Afghan Airlines when they were still flying to Prague. They had three kids: Elaj (Hilly), Usej (Hossy) and Walid. I quickly befriended the kids and I learnt Dari quite fluently from them. There I was, 10 years old little Czech girl, speaking fluently Dari. We were such close friends, that I seriously thought that I can go to Kabul with them for vacation and buy the shoes who blink when you walk.

That of course never happened and instead I went along one Monday evening to the airport to see them for the last time ever. I cried so hard I didn't go to school for few days. Few years later I got a Christmas card from them from somewhere in Germany and that was it.

Regardless, my interest in Arabic and Persian places was awoken. I loved the mystery of those places I've never heard of, and hoped to go to places I knew I will never go. I did live in Tunisia for quite some time, but Tunisia is a very different arabic country, very liberal and not hard to go to.

Marjan was a lion living in Kabul zoo, given them as a gift from a zoo in Germany as a cute little cub. When the war started, he suffered a horrible incident, when a member of Taliban wanted to prove his manliness so he climbed in his cage. He got of course killed. The next day his brother came back and threw a granate in his cage. The hungry lion bit in it and it exploded.

He lived through with severe injuries to his mouth, disabled and deaf. Once the war ended, people in the world lined up to help him, collected money so he can be treated, bought proper food and vitamins. But Marjan instead died just few days after the rescue workers arrived to Kabul zoo to start the relief mission. I still remember the day I learnt about his death, I don't think anything could ever hit me harder and he will forever remain in my heart as symbol of war, suffering, torture, bravery and hope.

Few days ago I got a book from eBay "A Thousand Splendid Suns". I've seen a Kite Runner through a river of tears, but I wanted to read the book now. That book is totally amazing and very well written. I feel like I am there, like I know the village Mariam is from, or the street she lives in. I feel her fear and loniless. That book puts me in an absolute perspective. Here I am with all my little worries and trouble and I can now see how lucky I actually am for what I have and where and how I live.

I've seen around the blogs I follow people expressing their 8 wishes for the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah. They often wish for things like new boots, vacation in Caribbean, winning the lottery etc. I also have 8 wishes, but they are little different:

1. Have a baby
2 - 8. End the suffering and bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and other war torn countries

P.S. If you by any chance ever come across an idea where my friends can be, can you please let me know ?

If you want to read more about his live, this is from wiki:
Marjan (1976 – January 25, 2002) was the most famous resident of the rundown Kabul Zoo. He witnessed Afghanistan’s turbulent history, from the 1978 murder of King Zahir Shah’s brother-in-law, Sardar Mohammed Daoud and his entire family, arrival of the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan that launched another coup, Great Saur Revolution, USSR invasion, state of warlordism, and the Taliban’s fall. Once the western forces moved into the country, devastating conditions in Kabul’s, once well kept, Zoo were revealed. Marjan, the one-eyed lion, became an instant celebrity.

Marjan, which in Pashto means Coral, was born in 1976 and was given as a gift to Kabul in 1978 by the Zoo in Cologne, Germany. He arrived in Kabul and soon afterwards, a lioness by the name of Chucha joined him. During the USSR invasion, the city of Kabul was somewhat spared from the total destruction of the city. However, once the Russians left the country, the civil war that ensued, along with the state of total chaos, enveloped the city of Kabul in the middle of a battlefield. The zoo was shelled on many occasions, even destroying its medical supply facility, leaving zoo personnel helpless and unable to help wounded animals.

In 1993 one Afghan wanting to prove his manliness to the rest of his friends, sneaked into the lion’s den. The Afghan stroked Chucha, the lioness, who did not react, but Marjan the lion attacked the man and killed him within minutes. The following day, the man’s brother came and threw a hand grenade into the lion’s den, rendering Marjan blind in one eye (which had to be removed), deaf, and permanently disabled. Despite several surgeries, neither Marjan’s eyesight nor his mouth could be saved. He lost all of his teeth, making it impossible for him to eat boned meat. A ramp was also built for him to get back into his den, as he was seen a few times falling down before making it back into the den.

With the arrival of the US led coalition, the western media quickly picked up the story of Marjan, the one-eyed lion. As the news spread, many animal rights organizations, such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and many zoos around the world lent a helping hand in form of money, medical supplies, as well as personnel that included vets and nurses. Despite overwhelming response, Marjan succumbed to old age and died in January of 2002. Both private and public funeral ceremonies were held for the lion that was buried in the zoo. His grave has a post in English that says Marjan and in Pashto “He was about 23. He was the most famous lion in the world.”

This lion is mention in Khaled Hosseini's novel "The Kite Runner".

Marjan was given the nickname Bobby and made an honorary member of the coalition by US soldiers as he had killed a taliban and given his all in the war on terror

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